At a community meeting this week, Dale Dougherty, former CEO of Maker Media announced the relaunch of the Make brand. Maker Media is dead, but the brand may live on as Make Community, LLC. Dougherty will remain the CEO of Make Community, and Todd Sotkicwicz, former CFO of Maker Media, was identified as the current CFO of Make Community. This is the same organization that brought you Make Magazine and the Maker Faires gearing up to give you even more Make Magazines and more Maker Faires.
Early this year, we heard rumors about the future of Maker Media and its flagship Maker Faires. Then in May, just before the Bay Area Maker Faire, Dougherty told the San Francisco Chronicle that it was ‘quite possible this could be the last Bay Area Maker Faire’. The Bay Area Faire came and went, and early last month we received news that employees were let go and Maker Media had ceased operations.
Now, according to Dougherty’s summary at the meeting, what remained has now been reformed into a new LLC, Make Community, and he was holding this meeting to gauge how much the community would be willing to contribute. The official launch of Make Community will supposedly be next week, but you can check out the future home of the Make Community at make.co.
For this relaunch, Dougherty identified several things this new company could do that he said are low-risk and will help Make Community earn revenue. He said it would relaunch the magazine, to be published six times per year. From the website as it stands, it looks like this will consist of a “digital issue” and an opportunity to subscribe to a print edition. Dale said that the company can also still rely on the income from about 80 book titles that were published by Maker Media, and that the licensing of mini Maker Faires will carry on through Make Community.
From the website, it looks like the new revenue model for Make is also going to include annual memberships, with each tier granting additional perks. The paid levels offer digital access to Make’s magazine and video archives, plus a discount on the print version of the magazine. The most expensive membership offers discounts on the flagship Faire tickets, a percentage off of products from the Maker Shed, which appears to be closed at the time of writing, and a “FREE Make: Workshop”.
The Maker Community has consistently shown an outpouring of support for Maker Media. When asked if there will be another Maker Faire, Dougherty responded: “It has always been a cash-flow problem instead of a profitability problem” but they require a significant capital outlay to produce. When asked by a member of the community if Make Community can fundraise or crowdfund their way out of this problem, Dougherty replied with an emphatic, “yes”. Whether his enthusiasm is realistic remains to be seen. Dougherty estimates that it costs roughly $2,000,000 to produce either the Bay Area Maker Faire or the World Maker Faire in New York City.
Why did Make Fail?
Dougherty spent some time explaining what went wrong with Make’s old business model. Most damaging was the reliance on venture capital; Maker Media had raised $10 million in venture capital over the years. “This was not a good fit for venture capital,” Dougherty explained, “and the funding model did not make investors happy.” But he also blamed the failure of the Faires on falling corporate sponsorship:
Maker Faire was a victim of its success. The Faires were riskier to do and for us we were still a small company. What we’ve seen over the last year and a half is a decline in corporate sponsorship. And the way it kind of works is that corporate sponsorship kind of gave us the budget for the event, and ticket sales kind of pay expenses after it, and if there was a profit, we made some, but they’re both pretty volatile…. But there was not a significant drop off in attendance [of flagship Faires].
According to figures published by Maker Media, 2015 saw 145,000 makers attend the Bay Area Maker Faire, a slight increase over 2014 numbers. In 2016, Make reported attendance of 150,000, and in 2017 it was listed at 125,000. The number for 2018 was a mere 100,000. That’s still a lot of people, but in less than two years, attendance at the Bay Area Maker Faire dropped more than 30%.
The meeting still left us with open questions, however. If the Faires are profitable and the publications are easy methods to earn revenue, why did Maker Media become insolvent? We’ve reached out to Dougherty and to others involved for clarification. We’ll keep you updated as soon as we know more.
The recording and (partial) transcript of this meeting are up on GitHub. Pull requests for improved transcriptions are encouraged.
[Main image: Dale Dougherty toasting to Maker Faire along with the staff at the close of the 2019 Bay Area Maker Faire]